As a bike mechanic who works in a shop every day, I've been witness to the proliferation of varied and increasingly more complex bicycle components and systems, from electronic shifting to GPS systems. But what's baffled me is how the current industry has moved away from simple, common sense approaches to things whose smooth operation we all used to take for granted; the bottom bracket (BB) being the first and foremost.
A bottom bracket is that part of your bike where the crank spins. These bearings need to spin smoothly and last a long time, but the current PressFit designs are, as of right now, a hit or miss affair. The lack of precision in the way they fit is the culprit. The universal fit bottom bracket cups on offer from component manufacturers are like a one-size-fits-all shirt---it doesn't really fit anybody right. Another complication arises when a consumer wants to depart from what is "supposed" to be in their bike and is forced to use adaptors. For example, if a guy who buys a Wilier Cento1, which has a BB386 bottom bracket, wants to run a Campagnolo Ultra Torque crank, he must use conversion adaptors which are, quite frankly, ad hoc. The multiplication of interfaces between components creates yet more places for creaks to develop and performance to suffer. But the most annoying aspect is that the current PressFit systems don't last. Solving these problems is why we started BBInfinite.
We studied the industry's most popular frame styles, such as Cervélo BBRight models, Specialized Venge and S-Works models, Cannondale PressFit30's, and several others, and found a great many differences where there shouldn't have been any at all. Sure these bikes all have engineered differences, such as variations in bottom bracket widths, but the hole sizes were quite different even though they were all supposed to be the same Ø46mm PressFit standard. So, what this means is that the universal cups that press in are too tight in some bikes and too loose in others, resulting in creaks, pops, and poor performance. The measureable differences are minute, and in some cases the differences miniscule, but time and time again we found that a thousandth of an inch (.001") was all the difference in the world. It's the difference between a crank spinning smoothly and a crank-spin that's costing the rider 40 watts of drag.
I sat down with my buddy Wes, who is a mechanical engineer by trade, and together we came up with a solution. Mainly, we decided that the universal fit was out. We applied our study of bottom bracket dimensions to create frame specific models. In other words, if you have a Specialized Venge, we have a specific one just for your bike, and so on. We also realized that a one-piece design solved most problems by virtue of its very nature, so we went with it.
Because a BBInfinite bottom bracket module is one-piece, the bearings are unitized and absolutely coaxial. A one-piece design allows us to know the absolute distance between the bearings after assembly. As a result we are able to install a bushing between the bearings on models were it is called for, further enhancing performance and ensuring long-term durability.
Our one-piece design throws out the adaptors for those desiring to run the crank they want to rather than what's being forced on them by the manufacturers. And the best part is that we reward these rogues by giving them a system that is better than what they would have had if they'd played by the manufacturer's rules.
At the Start
We made the first few prototypes by hand on an old fashioned engine lathe. The results were better than we could've hoped for. In order to take our endeavor out of the basement, our families combined resources to come up with the money to buy anodized, CNC'd versions. We installed these prototypes in local racers' bikes who we knew would punish them. One of the guys had been going through bottom brackets every 1,000 or so miles! These racers thrashed our prototypes for an entire season. We inspected the prototypes periodically and found that the bearings were in perfect working order and broken-in to perfection. After 10,000 miles, we have BBInfinite modules out there on the original bearings that are creak-free and spinning like mad.
During our prototyping phase, we partnered with US manufacturers who were able to meet the tight aerospace tolerances demanded by our products. During this period we honed our quality control techniques to ensure that each model we send out once production begins will be as good as our 10,000 mile prototypes. The precision required to produce a world-class product like a BBInfinite Module demands specialized tooling and machining processes. The only way to offset the costs of these processes is to produce in volume. And this is one of the reasons why we need your assistance. Our goal is to make this product affordable, affordably, in the United States.
Whats included: Backer Packages
Fulfillment Plan: Delivering to You
Risks and challenges
The first risk was that someone would steal our ideas. Honestly, it kept us up at night. We hired a patent attorney to make sure everything would be air and water tight. As a result we are the sole patent owners of all we have invented.
After that, most of our challenges came about as we set out to address the greatest material risks to our endeavor's success, and these revolved around three things:
1. That our product would be safe and reliable.
2. That our product would not require skilled technicians and expensive equipment to install and service.
3. That the manufacturing costs of producing a precision component like ours in a timely manner, at a reasonable price in the United States, would be cost prohibitive.
To address the first, we began at the drawing board. We used tried and true tools, technologies, and techniques to create an entirely new approach and solution to an industry problem. We then rigorously tested our prototypes, destroying many in the process, until we arrived at our current designs, which we tested again. I don't think we will ever stop testing what we make. The best test is to always set out from the start to prove yourself wrong. If you're still right when the dust settles, you got what you came for.
The second risk was and is perhaps the most significant. The industry's current bottom bracket designs require a skilled technician for installation and set up; set up being the most important. An incompetently performed installation makes the customer unhappy with, not the technician, mechanic, or shop, but with the product. Potentially our product!
Our solution was the make it so easy a rank amateur could do it. How? By taking control over all the items that need skill and precision to get right. That's why we created an entirely modular design. We get it right so you don't have to know how to. And to top it off we have produced and continue to produce installation and service training both written and filmed, the latter being delivered via our Youtube channel.
The last risk is a pitfall that concerns us greatly. This is what brought us to Kickstarter. In order to produce here in the United States, we must produce in volume to reach a desirable price break. We want to share the fun with everyone. We won't rest until the regular guy or gal can afford the riding experience they've earned---that they deserve---through use of our products. We need funding to make this happen.
The greatest challenge is maintaining quality as the quantity increases. Our product relies on aerospace-level attention to detail from the moment the raw material starts spinning in the CNC machine and the cutting head advances to start the first cut. Not just any shop can hold the tight tolerances called for. We have partnered with world-class production facilities to achieve the standards we must hold from here on out, no matter how many we make. We at BBInfinite hand check every part and hand assemble every module. This level of quality control is not fanaticism. We do it because we must. Nothing can be left to chance. And so, the precise nature of our products is the challenge. It will require absolute diligence. Any compromise in our values will result in a customer's dissatisfaction. This would be unacceptable.
Our suppliers have robust capacity and we at BBInfinite have honed our multi-stage QC and assembly processes to meet potentially high demand and prevent bottle-necks in the supply and production chain. Everyone we rely on for raw materials and processing have assured us that they can meet any foreseeable demand. But just to be safe, we have cultivated relationships with several alternative suppliers and producers. We like to call it, "The many baskets" approach. One can never be too careful.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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